|Lech Kaczynski, Katyn 2009
Below is the text of the speech which Lech Kaczynski, who died on Saturday, was going to deliver at the 70th anniversary ceremony of the Katyn massacre.
“Dear Representatives of the Katyn Families. Ladies and Gentlemen. In April 1940 over twenty-one thousand Polish prisoners from the NKVD camps and prisons were killed. The genocide was committed at Stalin’s will and at the Soviet Union’s highest authority’s command.
The alliance between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union, the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact and the Soviet attack on Poland on 17 September 1939 reached a terrifying climax in the Katyn massacre. Not only in the Katyn forest, but also in Tver, Kcharkiv and other known, and unknown, execution sites citizens of the Second Republic of Poland, people who formed the foundation of our statehood, who adamantly served the motherland, were killed.
At the same time families of the murdered and thousands of citizens of the eastern territory of the pre-war Poland were sent into exile deep into the Soviet Union, where their indescribable suffering marked the path of the Polish Golgotha of the East.
The most tragic station on that path was Katyn. Polish officers, priests, officials, police officers, border and prison guards were killed without a trial or sentence. They fell victims to an unspeakable war. Their murder was a violation of the rights and conventions of the civilized world. Their dignity as soldiers, Poles and people, was insulted. Pits of death were supposed to hide the bodies of the murdered and the truth about the crime for ever.
The world was supposed to never find out. The families of the victims were deprived of the right to mourn publicly, to proudly commemorate their relatives. Ground covered the traces of crime and the lie was supposed to erase it from people’s memory.
An attempt to hide the truth about Katyn – a result of a decision taken by those who masterminded the crime – became one of the foundations of the communists’ policy in an after-war Poland: a founding lie of the People’s Republic of Poland.
It was the time when people had to pay a high price for knowing and remembering the truth about Katyn. However, the relatives of the murdered and other courageous people kept the memory, defended it and passed it on to next generations of Poles. They managed to preserve the memory of Katyn in the times of communism and spread it in the times of free and independent Poland. Therefore, we owe respect and gratitude to all of them, especially to the Katyn Families. On behalf of the Polish state, I offer sincere thanks to you, that by defending the memory of your relatives you managed to save a highly important dimension of our Polish consciousness and identity.
Katyn became a painful wound of Polish history, which poisoned relations between Poles and Russians for decades. Let’s make the Katyn wound finally heal and cicatrize. We are already on the way to do it. We, Poles, appreciate what Russians have done in the past years. We should follow the path which brings our nations closer, we should not stop or go back.
All circumstances of the Katyn crime need to be investigated and revealed. It is important that innocence of the victims is officially confirmed and that all files concerning the crime are open so that the Katyn lie could disappear for ever. We demand it, first of all, for the sake of the memory of the victims and respect for their families’ suffering. We also demand it in the name of common values, which are necessary to form a foundation of trust and partnership between the neighbouring nations in the whole Europe.
Let’s pay homage to the murdered and pray upon their bodies. Glory to the Heroes! Hail their memory!”
Professor Lech Kaczynski, the President of Poland